Breakfast has long been coined as the most important meal of the day, and for good reason! This meal, as its name would suggest, breaks the night-long fast that your body has endured while you’re sleeping. It kick starts your metabolism and gets you ready and energized to take on the day.
There are many health benefits associated with regularly eating a nutritious breakfast each morning. For starters, this meal helps to control your blood sugar by replenishing low sugars from your nighttime slumber. Maintaining a stable blood sugar throughout the day helps to keep your brain healthy and focused, improves your mood, reduces cravings, and boosts your energy. In the elderly community, breakfast is especially important because it also increases the likelihood of reaching your daily intake of calories and nutrients… something that can become a challenge as we age. A healthy breakfast can also support promoting a strong immune system.
Breakfast doesn’t have to be a big production, or even a hot meal, to count. However, it should be a bit more thoughtful (and healthy) than just a donut. Here are a few heart healthy options that will provide a nutritious start to your day.
- Yogurt Parfait
Begin by filling your bowl with a healthy 6-8oz serving of plain Greek yogurt. This will provide you with the protein needed for optimal brain function, without all of the added sugar of flavored yogurts. Next, pair it with a complex carbohydrate, such as fresh berries, to help keep you satiated until lunch, warding off the urge to snack between meals. Berries, such as strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, and raspberries, play an important role in heart health. They’re rich in antioxidants which help to reduce inflammation. Studies have also shown that eating berries can help reduce cholesterol, blood pressure, and BMI (body mass index). Finally, you can drizzle with a small amount of local honey for added sweetness, as well as almonds or walnuts for a bit of crunch! Both nuts are a great source of fiber and micro-nutrients, which are beneficial in protecting against heart disease. Parfaits can be made ahead of time and stored in the fridge for a quick and easy breakfast option.
- Avocado Toast
Smash up half of a ripe avocado and spread it on top of a toasted slice of whole grain bread for a quick, easy, and tasty breakfast option. Avocados are rich in potassium, which is essential for heart health. Additionally, they’re a wonderful source of monounsaturated fats, which have been linked to many health benefits, including lowered cholesterol and reduced risk of heart disease. A whole grain bread option, such as Ezekiel bread– made from sprouted grains and legumes, ensures that this meal is a heart-healthy option. You can top it with a poached egg or hard boiled egg whites for added protein, if you wish!
Though the instant packets of oatmeal are convenient and easy, they’re also more heavily processed and packed with sugar. Try to opt for homemade rolled oats if you choose to have a bowl of oatmeal for breakfast. Oats are a wonderful whole grain option that can be prepared on their own or paired with fresh fruit and nuts for a more interesting flavor variety. Studies show that consuming 3 or more servings of whole grains each day can reduce your risk of heart disease by up to 22%. To sneak in some added protein, try stirring in liquid egg whites for “fluffy oatmeal”; the eggs will not alter the flavor, only the amount of protein found in the meal.
- Egg White Omelet
Eggs are a wonderful source of protein and a great way to start your day. By using more egg whites than whole eggs, you can increase your protein intake, without all of the added fat and cholesterol found in egg yolks. With the base of your omelet ready to go, now you can fill it with a variety of ingredients to suit your taste. It’s often difficult to consume vegetables in the morning, but omelets are the perfect opportunity to add them in; try tossing in a handful of leafy greens, such as spinach, to your dish! You can pair it with fresh tomatoes and a sprinkle of feta cheese for a delicious breakfast treat. Leafy greens are loaded with nutrients, minerals, and antioxidants– particularly vitamin K, which helps to protect your arteries. Additionally, it promotes proper clotting and reduces the risk of heart disease. Finish your meal off with a slice of whole grain toast for a nice balance of protein and carbohydrates.
If the thought of sitting down and eating a morning meal seems unappetizing or unappealing, perhaps you’ll have better success with drinking your breakfast. Smoothies make for a great on-the-go meal and can easily be prepped ahead of time. Toss some Greek yogurt, fresh (or frozen) fruit, leafy greens, unsweetened almond milk, and a few ice cubes into a blender and you’re ready to go! While you have all of your ingredients out and easily accessible, you can portion them into Ziploc bags and place them in the freezer to use at a later time. Just open up the bag and transfer the contents into the blender– breakfast will be ready in no time at all! You’ll get a lovely balance of protein from the yogurt and carbohydrates from the fresh fruit. The berries and leafy greens will provide you with all of the heart-healthy benefits mentioned earlier; though the smoothie may be green in color, the greens will be otherwise undetectable in terms of flavor! This is a great way to sneak in a nutrient dense serving if you aren’t too keen on greens.